Ohio Gadfly Daily

Most Ohio Gadfly readers know that we typically offer in-depth commentary one topic at a time. This tendency assumes (pardon the holiday metaphor) that one huge present is preferred—like the Lexus tied up in a bow. We recognize that other folks might prefer a bundle of gifts. So, for those yearning for a little more diversity in their inbox, this one is for you. (No white elephants, we promise.)

A win on ESSA accountability

In late November, the U.S. Department of Education released its revised and final regulations on school accountability under the federal Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA). In a victory for high achievers, the feds made it crystal clear that states are permitted to use a performance index—as Ohio has long done—as an indicator of student achievement. Regrettably (see here and here for why), the previous draft regulations would have likely forbidden performance indices and forced states to use proficiency rates instead. Now it’s full steam ahead on the performance index as Ohio drafts its ESSA state plan.

Information in the palm of your hand

Kudos to state leaders who are making Ohio’s report card data useful and accessible to policy wonks...

Ohio’s charter school reform discussions have mostly focused on sponsors—the entities responsible for providing charter school oversight. Overlooked are the important changes in Ohio’s charter reform law (House Bill 2) around operators. Operators (aka management companies) are often the entities responsible for running the day-to-day functions of charter schools; some of the responsibilities they oversee include selecting curriculum, hiring and firing school leaders and teachers, managing facilities, providing special education services, and more. (To get a sense of the extent of operator responsibilities, read through one of their contracts.)

Extra sunshine on operators has been especially needed in a climate like Ohio’s, where operators historically have wielded significant political influence and power not only with elected officials but even over governing boards. For instance, one utterly backwards provision pre-HB 2 allowed operators to essentially fire a charter’s governing board (with sponsor approval) instead of the other way around—what NACSA President Greg Richmond referred to as the “most breathtaking abuse in the nation” in charter school policy.  

HB 2 installed much-needed changes on this front, barring the most egregious abuses of power and greatly increasing operator transparency. The legislation required that contracts between charter...

One in seven adults’ ages 18-24 in Ohio lacks a high school diploma and faces bleak prospects of prospering in our economy. Dropouts earn $10,000 less each year than the average high school graduate according to the U.S. Census Bureau, are almost twice as likely to be unemployed, and typically earn an average annual income of $20,241 which hovers just above the poverty line for a family of three in Ohio. Dropouts also drag down the Ohio economy; over the course of their life, they consume an estimated $292,000 in public aid beyond what they pay in taxes.

To mitigate the number and cost of dropouts, Ohio has permitted the creation of ninety-four dropout prevention and recovery schools. Collectively, these schools enrolled sixteen thousand students in the 2015-16 year. They serve at-risk and re-enrolling students—pupils who previously dropped out but are now re-entering the education system—with the aim of graduating students who might otherwise slip through the cracks.

To hold these schools accountable for successfully educating at-risk students, Ohio has created an alternative report card. This report card assigns an overall rating of “Exceeds,” “Meets,” or “Does Not Meet” standards based on the...

  1. Fordham-sponsored charter school KIPP: Columbus is among the grant recipients recently announced by the Columbus Foundation as part of its Capital Improvement Funding Partnership to “prioritize and respond to capital needs in the community.” Congrats to local KIPPsters on the grow! (Columbus Business First, 12/9/16)
     
  2. Fordham’s 2016 study of Ohio’s EdChoice Scholarship program is referenced in this commentary opining against Betsy DeVos as Secretary of Education. (Charleston (WV) Gazette-Mail, 12/10/16)
     
  3. The PD reports that the lame duck session of the Ohio General Assembly did not legislate changes to the attendance audit/funding process for online schools in the state, a process which is the subject of litigation and journalistic tit-for-tatting between the state’s largest such school and the state department of education. (Cleveland Plain Dealer, 12/12/16)
     
  4. Speaking of the state legislature, this piece from the D regarding an impending change – or not – of Ohio’s new graduation requirements had a decidedly-legislative spin in its print version (which I read while drinking coffee out of a Christmas-themed mug this morning), but in this online version seems a bit less cut-and-dried in that regard. I’m sure we’ll know which it is when the state board
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  1. As the school’s sponsor, Fordham is namechecked in this story about an impending expansion at DECA Prep, one of the first charter schools to win facilities funding from the state. Awesome! (Dayton Biz Journal, 12/7/16)
     
  2. The state board of education has heard "nothing official" from the business community regarding proposed changes to Ohio’s new graduation standards (before they even fully take effect) and even the redoubtable Patrick O’Donnell seems unable to get an official comment from them, even by asking nicely…and persistently. Which I’m sure he did. Discussion on said changes will continue at next week’s board meeting. (Cleveland Plain Dealer, 12/9/16)
     
  3. Potential disaster was averted in the Colossus of Lorain (aka, the district’s schmancy new high school) earlier this week after a candy bar fire was quickly extinguished. You can bet the whole thing was caught on camera. (Northern Ohio Morning Journal, 12/9/16)

One of the big Ohio education stories of 2016 was the growing popularity of College Credit Plus (CCP), a program that provides students three ways to earn college credit from public or participating private colleges: by taking a course on a university campus; at the student’s high school where it’s taught by a credentialed teacher; or online. Many students and families have found that the program saves them time and money and provides valuable experience. For families with gifted or advanced students, it is a chance for acceleration even as early as seventh grade; for students in high-poverty rural and urban areas, it may be the only way to take high-level courses in basic subjects, let alone electives.

Before registering, students in grades 7-12 must be admitted to the college based on their readiness in each subject they plan to take a class in—a decision made by each higher education institution and determined by GPA, end-of-course (EOC) exam scores, and other available data. Once admitted, students can register for any course the school offers, except for those that are considered remedial or religious. (The latter restriction is presumably intended to keep church and...

  1. Our own Chad Aldis was busy yesterday. Here he is reminding us of the subtle irony of district-sponsored online charter schools looking for an exemption to the rule that other online schools – like Ohio’s largest such school – must currently follow regarding attendance audit findings and potential return of funds to the state. (Cleveland Plain Dealer, 12/6/16) Here he is lamenting the impending closure of the Ohio Alliance for Public Charter Schools after 10 years of work on behalf of charters statewide. (Gongwer Ohio, 12/6/16) And here is saying lovely things about RaShaun Holliman, who started Monday as the new head of the Office of Community Schools at the Ohio Department of Education. (Cleveland Plain Dealer, 12/6/16)
     
  2. Speaking of ODE – the department informed Parma City Schools late last week that the district’s proposed fiscal recovery plan had been accepted. (Cleveland Plain Dealer, 12/5/16)
     
  3. And speaking of accepted plans – the Youngstown Academic Distress Commission this week approved a revised version of CEO Krish Mohip’s turnaround plan. Additions from the original submission include updating the student code of conduct, educating students on appropriate school behavior, providing high-quality professional development to all staff
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  1. What are the chances that the ongoing kerfuffle between Ohio’s largest online school and the state department of education regarding their recent attendance audit will be solved via legislation in the current lame duck session of the Ohio General Assembly? The D says they are slim. (Columbus Dispatch, 12/5/16)
     
  2. An informal study shows that more than 70 percent of Ohio school district faced shrinking student populations in the last ten years. Here’s an interesting look at how some Lorain County districts coped, facilities-wise. (Northern Ohio Morning Journal, 12/3/16) And here’s a follow up looking at two suburban districts in Lorain County, both of which experienced strong increases in student enrollment over the last few years. (Northern Ohio Morning Journal, 12/4/16)
     
  3. I had never heard the story of how the founder of Columbus Africentric School ended up here in our fair city before. It’s pretty interesting. And he’s still here 50 years later and looking very much forward to the opening of the brand new and super-spiffy Africentric School building scheduled for early January. (Columbus Dispatch, 12/5/16)
     
  4. While not strictly education-focused, this interview with Hillbilly Elegy author J.D. Vance is, I think, very
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  1. Editors in Youngstown yesterday opined in praise of the Youngstown Plan and expressed hope for Lorain as it embarks on its own version of the plan. (Youngstown Vindicator, 12/1/16) It’s not technically part of the Youngstown Plan, but I’m sure the district will be happy to reap any goodwill and academic benefits that accrue from its recent expansion to all-day, full-week preschool. (Youngstown Vindicator, 12/2/16)
     
  2. It appears that Austintown Schools is poised to make changes to its open enrollment policy soon, due mainly to financial considerations. (Youngstown Vindicator, 12/1/16)
     
  3. Speaking of district finances, it appears that the proposed layoffs of classroom paraprofessionals in Dayton Schools are on hold until at least the summer. (Dayton Daily News, 12/1/16)
     
  4. Recall that teachers in Louisville Local Schools went back to work on Wednesday after a 16-day strike. They did so without approving a new contract and they are still working without one today. A vote is scheduled next week on a fact-finder’s report – intended as the basis for a new agreement – which has already been rejected by the rank-and-file twice. The Rep’s piece from yesterday does not seem filled with confidence for an
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  1. We start with an update on a few stories we’ve been following. First up, here is a more detailed look at the State Auditor’s (yeah, him again) report on the plusses and minuses of interdistrict open enrollment. (Columbus Dispatch, 11/28/16) The PD digs a little deeper into the recent court ruling in the ongoing kerfuffle between Ohio’s largest online school and the state department of education. (Cleveland Plain Dealer, 11/29/16) Finally, the Louisville (Ohio) teachers union voted on Monday to end their strike. Classes in the district were cancelled yesterday to help ease their return. (Canton Repository, 11/28/16)  If all has gone as planned, Louisville’s teachers are back in their classrooms this morning. However, it does not seem from yesterday’s Canton Rep update like everything has been ironed out nor an agreement signed with the district just yet. We’ll keep an eye on all three of these stories. (Canton Repository, 11/29/16)
     
  2. A guest commentator in the Enquirer yesterday opined in favor of the state’s higher graduation standard. (Cincinnati Enquirer, 11/29/16)
     
  3. "The Ohio Department of Education finds that any proposal to incorporate 'similar students' [measure for school ratings] into Ohio's accountability system is
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